In a recently conducted study researchers from the University of Florida discovered an inexpensive way to screen for Alzheimer’s that is also non-invasive.

The release from the study indicated, “The ability to smell is associated with the first cranial nerve and is often one of the first things to be affected in cognitive decline.” In Alzheimer’s patients it has been discovered that the left nostril is significantly more weakened than the right.

The participants in the study were asked to smell a tablespoon of peanut butter at various distances with one nostril capped. Researchers were interested in learning at which distance the participants could no longer detect the smell of the peanut butter. In Alzheimer’s patients, sense of smell in the left nostril was compromised; the average distance of scent detection had a range of 10 centimeters less than the right nostril. It was discovered that even among the participants who suffered from other types of cognitive decline, like dementia, only Alzheimer’s patients demonstrated the nostril difference.

Why was peanut butter used? It’s known as a “pure odorant”. When we smell, we incorporate two very distinct sensations: the olfactory sense and the trigeminal sense. The olfactory sense is pure smell and the trigeminal sense is more of a physical burning, singing sense. Peanut butter does not have a trigeminal element - it’s solely olfactory, which makes it the ideal candidate for the test. The link to Alzheimer’s deals specifically with the olfactory sense.

Could this be an efficient early warning system in Alzheimer’s testing? Currently, the condition is not so simple to detect and relies heavily on expensive neurological examination and mental health evaluations. The peanut butter test seems like a viable alternative, but only time will tell if it becomes accepted in the medical community.